Change of Use – Enforcement and the benefits of the Four and Ten year Rules

Why is enforcement a necessary part of the Planning process?

  1. To tackle breaches of Planning Control which could have a negative impact on the amenity of the area
  2. To ensure the public’s faith in the decision making process. The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) para. 58 states to “maintain public confidence in the Planning system”
  3. To maintain the integrity of the planning system

When might I be enforced against?

Your Local Planning Authority (LPA) monitors the implementation of Planning Permission, investigating cases of unauthorised development and taking necessary action. If you breach planning control regarding the use of your property, your LPA may choose to enforce against you. You may have inadvertently not gained planning permission, or a change in circumstance may mean that you no longer comply with the existing permission, either way, it is not uncommon for this to occur.

What are the time limits for the council to enforce against me?

In many cases, development is protected from enforcement if no action is taken by your LPA. This means if you have changed the use of your property without seeking permission you may still be protected. This protection is time sensitive with two deadlines, classified as follows

The change of use four year rule

Incidences where the four year rule prevents you from being enforced against include

  • If your whole building, or part of your building has been used as a single residential dwelling for over four years
  • If you built a structure to use for a particular purpose in excess of four years prior to the enforcement (for example you built a garage to be used as an office to run a business)

The change of use ten year rule

The ten year rule applies if

  • The current land or building use has been upheld for over 10 years, for example – letting out a property as House of Multiple Occupancy, HMO (C4 Use Class), rather than a residential dwelling (C3)
  • A limitation on planning permission or a relevant planning condition has not been complied with for over ten years.

It is worth noting that these time limits do not prevent enforcement in all cases and immunity may not apply if you have deliberately concealed the change of use in question. Planning Direct can clarify this and advise you accordingly. Alternatively, further information can befound in section 171B of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1990/8/section/171B

So what if you are confident that your unauthorised Development / Use has become lawful through the passage of time, under the terms of either the 4 year rule or the ten year rule?

You need to make a formal application to your LPA for a Certificate of Lawfulness. Planning Direct can help you with this. 

A Certificate of Lawfulness is a legal document which regularises unlawful development. The alternative to this is a considerably more time consuming process which requires applying for planning permission. This must be submitted according to the strict conditions of planning law involving complying with local and national planning policy.

If your application is successful you can then rest safe in the knowledge that your Use Class is lawful. This is particularly appealing if  you are 

  1. Looking to sell or lease the premises
  2. Looking to invest in the development of the premises

Here at Planning Direct we can assess which route you need to take to obtain your required planning permission. We can then act on your behalf to ensure you awarded the necessary permission and can continue to use your building as you desire.

For more information or to discuss any Change of Use planning issue contact the Planning Direct Change of Use team on 01473 407911 or email enquiries@planningdirect.co.uk

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